NHL Mock Draft Part Two: Selections 6-10

Part one is done, which looked at my prediction of the top-five National Hockey League entry draft selections, which means we are going through picks 6-10 for part two!


In this part I predict a trade, but other than that it is a straightforward prediction. For a quick refresher, Kappo Kakko went first, Jack Hughes went second, Cole Caufield at third, Alex Turcotte went fourth and Bowen Byram went fifth. 


Sixth Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings trade back!

A trade kicks off part two, and it is a small one, but with a big impact. The Red Wings, I believe, are eyeing a prospect that should be available at 10th overall, owned by the Vancouver Canucks, and so they swap places, with Vancouver also eating Danny DeKeyser’s contract. Canucks fans have always complained about getting screwed over by the draft lottery, and so the team decides it’s time to move up, at the cost of DeKeyser’s hefty contract. Trade is Detroit’s 2019 sixth overall pick to Vancouver in exchange for the 10th overall pick, and Danny DeKeyser. So, here’s the pick:


Sixth Overall Pick: Vancouver Canucks select Trevor Zegras, Center/Both Wings, USNTDP

Zegras is like Alex Turcotte and Bowen Byram (who were selected in part one) in which he could arguably be the third overall pick. But with the Caufield selection at three, and Turcotte and Byram ultimately falling, Zegras is left available for the taking. (Why Detroit wouldn’t take him here will be explained when pick 10 rolls around).

For Vancouver, they have been dying to select a versatile, sure-fire future elite forward on draft day for a while. I know what you’re thinking, what about Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat? Pettersson was selected back in 2016, and needed a season before making the jump and, ultimately, becoming their best player. Boeser was everything but a sure-fire deal, being taken at 23rd overall in 2015. Horvat was drafted in 2013, at the tail end of the top 10 (ninth overall) and also wasn’t exactly a sure thing.

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So, it’s been a few years and the Canucks want more, and Zegras is probably the best forward (aside from Pettersson) that they have selected in the draft, and whether he ends up more vital to the team than Horvat and Boeser will be found out within a few years.

Zegras piled up 14 goals and 26 assists (40 points) in 27 games with the USNTDP juniors. The fact that he didn’t play up with Turcotte and Jack Hughes tells me he has about 1-2 years before making the jump to the NHL, but his playmaking ability is outstanding. He proved that when he played for the US National U-18 team for 60 games, where he put up 26 goals and 61 assists (87 points).

Next season, like with Caufield and Turcotte, he is committed to joining an NCAA club, and for him it’s Boston University. BU is well known in the hockey community thanks to Jack Eichel, Charlie McAvoy and Charlie Coyle, just to name a few, so I feel that this is a big step in the right direction for Zegras.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, likely won’t join the NHL club at any point next season, unless he dominates with BU.


Seventh Overall Pick: Buffalo Sabres select Dylan Cozens, Center/Right Wing, Lethbridge Hurricanes, WHL

This is an excellent selection for the Sabres. But then again, if any of the aforementioned players were available here, and the Sabres picked them, it would be excellent. That’s just how strong the top-10 prospects are in this class.

Playing in the WHL last season with Lethbridge, Cozens put up 34 goals and 50 assists (84 points) in 68 games, along with four goals and four assists (eight points) in seven playoff games. Cozens is leading the next wave of power forwards, that is currently led by Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights.

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Cozens is well balanced, with a good shot and good vision. But his defensive abilities, paired with his well-balanced scoring touch, prompted LastWordOnHockey’s Ben Kerr to believe he could be a first line center with a chance at winning the Selke Trophy. That’s big praise from a guy who does several scouting reports on all different players every year. Cozens could make the jump to the NHL off of a strong camp, but the chances are he needs another year or so to advance to the next level. 

Next Year’s Role: WHL time with Lethbridge, likely won’t join the club late in the season, but it is possible.


Eighth Overall Pick: Edmonton Oilers select Matthew Boldy, Left Wing, USNTDP

Why Matthew Boldy here? I know it’s a little off the board, and he is not the best player available. But that by no means says that he is not a good player. Boldy has good size (6’2”, 192 pounds), and he had a very good season with the USNTDP Juniors club. He racked up 17 goals and 26 assists (43 points) in 28 games, adding another 33 goals and 48 assists (81 points) in 64 games with the US National U-18 team. He might not be the best skater in the draft by any means, but as fellow Puck77 contributor Tony Ferrari points out, with some adjustment in his stride as well as a better first step and in general acceleration, he could wind up being one of the best players in the draft.

Now, when we head on over to Edmonton’s roster, we see they have a strong center core, both young and experienced (Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira in the NHL, Ryan McLeod, Cooper Marody in their pool) as well as a solid bunch of right wingers with promise (Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi in NHL, Kailer Yamamoto, Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Mafin in pool), as well as defenseman (Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse in NHL, Evan Bouchard, Dmitri Samorukov, Ethan Bear in pool).

As for left wings, they have Milan Lucic and Tobias Rieder on the NHL club, and Tyler Benson in their pool. That is a very weak core, relative to their other positions (outside of goaltending), and while some players may go and new players will come in within the time that Boldy will be in the juniors/minors developing, they should still get a headstart in building up that very weak left wing.

Boldy is a safer pick than some guys who may have higher upside, but regardless, he fills a pretty large need the Oilers have. This is not that much of a reach either, it’s just that he was in the shadows of the earlier USNTDP picks and is, in my opinion, overlooked by the general fan. I believe this would be a great selection for Edmonton. He has committed to Boston College (NCAA) next season, where he will not be in anyone’s shadow.

Next Year’s Role: NCAA minutes, no chance he joins the Oilers late in season barring major injuries and/or he dominates in Boston College.


9th Overall Pick: Anaheim selects Kirby Dach, Center, Saskatoon Blades, WHL

Dach going to the Ducks is a match made in heaven. We all know the frustrating in-your-face, kind of dirty style of play that the Ducks utilize. While Dach isn’t necessarily dirty, he is a big guy, standing at 6’4, 198 pounds, and can very easily use that frame to fit the bill of a Duck.

The Ducks core is aging, and their prospect pool is very weak. They go best player available at this selection, and it really couldn’t be better for Anaheim. His size isn’t the only thing that is enticing.

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Dach had 25 goals and 48 assists (73 points) in 62 games played with Saskatoon, as well as five goals and three assists (eight points) in 10 postseason games played. He did not play any international games this past season with Canada, which is why he “dropped” to ninth (he ranges anywhere from third to 13th in this class) but he is still an intriguing prospect.

The knock on Dach is three things: 1) His acceleration is not good enough to translate to the NHL at this moment and he needs to really improve in that area to be a successful player at the next level. 2) He tends to keep his head down when skating with the puck, and despite his size, has gotten destroyed by hits on several occasions. 3) Finally, a lot of experts and fellow contributors on the site say that he does not have a very high ceiling (potential), but does have a very good skill set, or in other words, a high floor.

Next Year’s Role: Sticks with Saskatoon in the WHL all season, does not join NHL club at the end of Juniors.


10th Overall Pick: Detroit Red Wings (via Vancouver) selects Victor Soderstrom, Right-Handed Defenseman, Brynas IF, SHL

First off, right handed defenseman are a rare breed, and whenever you have a chance to grab one through the draft in the first round (especially at tenth overall), you take that guy.

In Detroit’s case, they had the sixth overall pick, but I would consider it a reach if they took Soderstrom there, because of all the talented forwards. You’re probably thinking, why would Detroit, a rebuilding team, trade back when they had talented forwards to choose from? Because they have young NHL centers in Dylan Larkin and Michael Rasmussen, as well as young NHL wingers in Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou, and Tyler Bertuzzi. Not to mention, forward prospects in Taro Hirose, Filip Zadina, and Joseph Veleno.

How about young NHL defenseman, that are right handed? Madison Bowey in the NHL, and Filip Hronek as a prospect. Most of their defensive prospects are left handed, including their top D prospects in Jared McIsaac and Dennis Cholowski. So Detroit does not necessarily need forwards, and they do need a right handed defenseman, who happens to be (arguably) the second best D-man in the draft class, while also off-loading a bad contract.

Soderstrom started the season with Brynas IF’s junior team in the U-20 division, where he played 14 games, with one goal and seven assists (eight points). When he made the jump to the SHL, which is Sweden’s version of the NHL, he produced just four goals and three assists (seven points) in 44 games, with a not-so-good -11 +/-. But, the fact that he was constantly relied on and kept at the highest level as an 18-year-old against men says something.

Playing for Sweden at the World Junior Championships, he recorded one assist in four games, which was also underwhelming production. But what makes him arguably the best defenseman available after Byram is taken, is his well-rounded skill set. He is a very good skater, and has an ability to get shots on net through traffic consistently. He is good transitionally, with the IQ to know when to join the rush and attack, and when to stick back.

Despite being 5’11, 182 pounds, he does a good job using his body to win battles in front of the net or in the corners. His floor, offensively, is really low at the moment, but he is playing against men and not kids in his age group, so that sets him back a step. But he has the skating and shooting ability to give him a base in which NHL coaches can build upon once he makes the jump.

As he bulks up, and gets stronger, the more battles he will win along the boards and in front of the net defensively, and playing against men actually boosts his ceiling for his defensive game. If he’s finding success this early with his size in the SHL (and he bulks up), he could be a very reliable defenseman in his own end.

Next Year’s Role: Likely stays in Sweden. I don’t see him coming to North America to play AHL hockey, or CHL hockey. It’s best he stays in Europe one more year against tough competition to build up on his defensive game.


All stats via Elite Prospects

Rankings inspired by other contributors on Puck77

Featured Image Photo Credit: Nikos Michals

Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings: Got A Steal With Dylan Larkin

Prior to the season, Dylan Larkin signed a 5 year deal for $30.5 million USD with his hometown Detroit Red Wings.

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At an average annual value (AAV) of $6.1 million, this contract is beginning to look like a steal. As a top line centre, Larkin is playing at a level that is blowing his prior production out of the water. On pace for 79 points, he is likely to blow his career high (63 points – last season) out of the water. Plus, he’s got a chance at becoming the first point per game player for the Wings since Pavel Datsyuk (2014-15 when he had 65 points in 63 games)

With the recent signing of Auston Matthews to a 5 year, $58.17 million (11.634 AAV), and the speculated contracts of restricted free agents Mitch Marner, Mikko Rantenen and Brayden Point among others all looking like deals at or around $10 million per season, Larkin looks like a steal. In a season where Larkin is establishing himself as a number one center in the league, he is helping provide value on the dollar for the Wings.

Comparable Centremen

Currently sitting 40th in league scoring, Larkin is outpacing many centremen including Logan Couture, Ryan Johansen and Evgeny Kuznetsov. While Couture makes money almost on par with Larkin, his new contract kicks in next season for $8 million for the next 8 seasons. Johansen is in the second year of an 8 year, $64 million contract ($8 million AAV) and Kuznetsov is in the second year of an 8 year deal that pays him $7.8 million. Larkin and the three centres above all signed their deals within the last two years. While all of these players are key contributors to their teams, Dylan Larkin is the clear leader of his team. He’s also their top point producing centre and doesn’t have a ton of true offensive threats at his side. All three players listed above are on teams with so much offensive firepower, opposing teams aren’t able to focus in on those players.

Larkin’s Transitional Play 

Larkin is an elite transition and neutral zone player. He is among the best in the NHL at transitioning the puck through the neutral zone and entering the zone with possession. Figure 1 below shows that Larkin is carrying the puck through the neutral zone and entering the zone with possession at a rate higher than most players while not relying on passing the puck to others in the neutral zone to enter the offensive zone, but rather carrying the puck in himself.

Figure 1

He’s not only entering the offensive zone with the puck on his stick, he’s also doing quite well when you look at his transitional play. (Figure 2) This is often due to his ability to control the puck in the neutral zone while attacking the offensive blue-line with elite speed.

Figure 2

How the Contract Helps

With Dylan Larkin’s ability to change a game with his speed and skill, his contract is providing value beyond the stat line. The Detroit Red Wings are currently spending more on the salary cap than any other team in the NHL. The table (screenshot of CapFriendly.com) below shows the Red Wings salary cap situation in comparison to other squads.

With the Wings up against the cap, they needed to find a way to lock Larkin up at a low cap number. They were fortunate that Larkin struggled in his sophomore season, only putting up 32 points, before bouncing back to have a 63 point season last year. Larkin’s inconsistently allowed the Red Wings front office to offer Larkin a team-friendly deal.

With Larkin taking a team-friendly deal, it’s been helpful when it comes to roster management. The Red Wings have many ugly contracts including Justin Abdelkader ($4.25 Million through 2022-23), Frans Nielsen ($5.25 million through 2021-22) and Danny DeKeyser ($5 million through 2021-22). With Larkin willing to take a pay-cut, this means that the Red Wings don’t have to worry about buying out contracts or finding new homes for these players. 

Between the aforementioned Abdelkader, Nielsen, and Darren Helm ($3.85 million through 2020-21) the Red Wings have $13.35 million tied up for the next two seasons. That’s pretty bad considering that these three players combine for an average of 0.38 points per game.

On defense, the Red Wings are currently paying DeKeyser, Trevor Daley ($3.166 million through next season) and Jonathan Ericsson ($4.25 million through next season) for a combined $12.416 million USD. That’s pretty bad considering that these three defensemen are top 6 defenders at this point in their careers.  

Instead of having a tremendous amount of cap space that the Red Wings could use on youth, they are stuck paying veterans a ton of money.

Managing The Cap

Mismanagement of the cap is a flaw that can affect your team for years. Cap flexibility is key to building a winning team because it allows you to improve your team when you are ready to compete. 

Unfortunately for the Red Wings, getting rid of these contracts is going to require some creativity. But, it needs to be done. In order for the Red Wings to succeed long-term, their general manager, Ken Holland needs to surround Larkin with talent.

Larkin is easily the face of the team. In fact, Larkin is predicted by many to be the next captain of the Detroit Red Wings in the coming season. The choice seems obvious. Larkin is the Wings best player and he’s willing to take a hometown discount.

Teams generally succeed by paying big money to their high-end players and filling in around them with good value contracts and young players to help supplement the team around them. Larkin’s willingness to take a little less is key to helping the Red Wings pay talent down the road.

But, it’s up to Holland to dump some of the Wings’ awful contracts to create cap space. All eyes will be on the 63 year old general manager.

All stats and references from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, capfriendly.com and a special thanks to Corey Sznajder for his work on Public Tableau.

Follow me on Twitter @TheTonyFerrari for more on the Red Wings and the rest of the NHL.

Featured Image Photo Credit – Nikos Michals